Happy New Year!  When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, most of us are like polar bear swimmers on January 1st – we race in with gusto but just can’t stick it out. So forget a resolutions list. Consider instead this review of all too common customer service clunkers – and how to turn them into service success. So for your enjoyment, we proudly present the first annual What’s Out/What’s In for 2010/11 – please feel free to add your two cents:

What’s Out – “No Worries!”

Who started this? I can’t tell you how many times I say “thank you” and the response I get is: “No Worries!”  Do I look worried? What is it about my face that says I’m stressed out? It’s particularly bad when I’m asking a clerk to find me a…ahem…bigger size, and I get “No worries! I’ll go find one for you.” What does “no worries” mean now? That this store is prepared for chubby, size 2 challenged people me? Gaahh – it’s humiliating.

What’s In – Good Manners

In response to a customer’s “thank you” – how about a good, old fashioned “you’re welcome”? It’s professional, it’s polite, it’s perfect. And as for the bigger size request, all you need do is say “I will go and check for you and will be back in just a moment”, or “I’d be happy to check for you – just a moment please.” Please is a fabulous word and it has loads of power.

*note: as a side note here you should be aware of the word “another” as in “Can I get you another drink?” This sounds as if you’re implying I’m some sort of a lush. Leave out the quantifier – your customers will be more comfortable and your sales will increase.

What’s Out – Closing with No Eye Contact

How often has a clerk said “thank you” or “goodbye” without looking you in the eye? Sometimes she’s moved on to the next customer even while making the comment. Why bother saying anything at all unless you mean it? Can you imagine doing this as a visitor leaves your home? Time, and often the lack of it, should only have an impact on efficiency and not on manners.

What’s In – Closing with an Opening

Closing with an opening means saying farewell to customers while giving them an invitation to come back.  This could be something as simple as a sincere smile, with direct eye contact, while saying “thank you” or “goodbye”. Whatever you do, toss the “have a nice day” comment in the 2010 garbage dump – this is one phrase that should have been eradicated from the English lexicon the second it was introduced.  We can’t think of a more lame, annoying, meaningless comment. Try replacing it with “thank you for shopping with us” or “looking forward to seeing/talking with you again” which sound sincere because they are.

What’s Out – Who’s Next?

Whaddya mean who’s next? Weren’t you looking? Isn’t it obvious? At best this shows a complete lack of engagement with your customers, at worst it sets up a competition between the customers to jockey for position – and nobody wants to get in grandma’s way on Bay Day.

What’s In – I Can Help You Ma’am

What works best is to acknowledge the person and use the great news of being “next” to connect with them. Try saying ‘I am open and I’d be happy to serve the line starting with you Sir/Ma’am” or “I can help with this line – can I start here with you sir?” Yes this is a rhetorical question but it’s also a considerate one that connects you to all of the waiting customers. These statements make everyone in line feel valued.

What’s Out – I’m Sorry I Can’t Help You

There’s always something you can do, even if it’s to take the initiative to find someone else in the organization who CAN help the client. You work for the company, your customer doesn’t, so you should know how to access internal resources to resolve a customer’s problem even if you don’t physically hold the keys.

What’s In – Let Me See What I Can Do

If, for some reason, there really isn’t anything you can do then you can try this: “I would like to help you with this and what I am able to do/offer is the following…” or “In this situation, the best solution I have is this….” However, if the issue is related to a high price point item or service then you need to escalate it up the chain of command. If you really want to excel in your work, then follow through, learn how it was resolved and re-connect with the customer to gauge their satisfaction.

What’s Out – You Must Be Mistaken

There’s nothing worse than telling a customer (or anybody, for that matter) that they’re WRONG. Nobody wants to hear this. Even if they are wrong, it starts the conversation with a terribly negative tone.  Being wrong or right isn’t the point anyway. The point is sorting through the confusion and crafting a solution.

What’s In – Let Me Understand the Situation

Try starting the conversation with “There seems to be some sort of miscommunication” or “Something isn’t quite right here”. Follow through with “Let me try to figure out the situation”. If it turns out that the customer has indeed made a mistake, work with them to help avoid confusion in the future. If the company is in the wrong, then be sure to own this error on behalf of the company. Don’t try to explain away the reasons for the problem because customers don’t care. They want results – even if it’s just a validation of the fact that an error was made.

What’s Out – Gossiping with Co-workers

“Last night was great – you should’a been there!”, “She’s not coming in – do you blame her?”, “Well, go tell her you need a break!” This is the dreaded “talk as if no one is waiting to be served”. How often have you stood in line and got to hear all the dirt on the supervisor or the best/worst of the staff’s social life?

It’s unbelievable but this happens all the time. Sometimes I feel like chiming in just to see the clerk’s shocked reaction.

What’s In – Chatting with Customers

Add some fun to your day by engaging with your customers – in fact, engage with the whole  line up if you really want to create a positive customer experience. This is an art form you can learn if you start slowly and maintain your efficiency at the same time – and it’s power-packed.

Jump into the game, be the quarterback, go for gold, engage! It elevates your spirits, makes time go by faster and makes your customers feel valued. Most importantly it builds up your confidence and your personal power which you’ll need in the event you are required to handle an issue.

There really is power in the words we use.   Research on the brain and language confirms that our choice of words can affect our thought processes and consequently our behaviors.  It does matter what we say, and how we say it.  Language is powerful.

Got any What’s Out/What’s In ideas of your own? Post them here!